Cervical osteochondrosis: symptoms and treatment

Osteochondrosis generally refers to degenerative changes in any articular cartilage. Thus, this pathological condition can occur in all joints of the musculoskeletal system. However, the most pronounced symptoms, for example, headaches and headaches, as well as heart pains, are noted in the case of cervical osteochondrosis, that is, damage to the cartilaginous tissue between the vertebrae of the cervico-shoulder spine.

According to WHO statistics, about 60% of Europeans suffer from osteochondrosis to one degree or another. In men, the disease manifests itself approximately 10 years earlier than in women. Representatives of the sterner sex are faced with symptoms somewhere around 45 years of age. The female half is 55-60 years old, respectively. At the same time, experts are sounding the alarm about the ongoing rejuvenation of this disease. If you do not take timely measures, then literally within the next decade, the number of 30-year-old patients with osteochondrosis will significantly increase.

Causes of osteochondrosis

The need for correct posture

Dystrophic changes in the pulp occur for various reasons. The first place should be given to the natural aging of cartilage tissue, which, alas, is an objective and irresistible circumstance. However, as mentioned above, this disease is getting younger, which is no longer associated with aging, but with other reasons.

In young patients, the disease occurs due to metabolic disorders associated, as a rule, with poor diet. The abundance of fats and the reduced content of vitamins in foodstuffs are the reason that the cartilage begins to literally "starve" and come to a state of dystrophy.

Another provoking factor is physical inactivity. Read the forums on which people who have encountered this disease communicate, and you will see that the bulk of them are still relatively young residents of megacities, who, as a rule, are engaged in mental work involving a long sitting position. Low motor activity of the cervical vertebrae leads to a loss of elasticity of the cartilage in the intervertebral discs.

As a result of poor nutrition and related metabolic disorders, as well as due to physical inactivity, the pulp begins to degenerate, becoming more and more dense. In the later stages of osteochondrosis, a complication arises, which manifests itself in the replacement of the cartilaginous tissue of the bone and thickening of the intervertebral discs. This leads to compression of the nerve roots and blood vessels located here. The involvement of the elements of the nervous and vascular systems in the pathological process determines the specific course of osteochondrosis.

Specificity of the disease

The difficulty of dealing with this disease lies in its belated diagnosis, which is explained by the disguise of osteochondrosis under other pathologies. People are wasting precious time and do not treat this pathology, because they are not aware of its presence. And the patients cannot be blamed for this. If the pressure jumps, then we treat hypertension. Stabbed heart - we go to cardiology. The head hurts regularly, and now a person cannot fall asleep without ibuprofen or analgin. It does not even occur to us that we need to see a neuropathologist.

Meanwhile, just a couple of visits to a specialist of this profile will allow you to start the process of restoring the cartilage of each cervical vertebra, which will gradually eliminate false hypertension, and suspicions of angina pectoris, persistent headaches, and other symptoms that are associated with the condition of the cervico-shoulder regionthe spine, it seems to us, does not seem to be connected.Timely detection of pathology prevents further pulp dystrophy and allows you to treat osteochondrosis at home and on an outpatient basis - without hospitalization. Unfortunately, the lion's share of patients turn to a neuropathologist already with sufficiently severe lesions of the intervertebral discs - when the neck begins to hurt unbearably.

Narrowing of the intervertebral space on x-ray

Diagnostic Methods

Osteochondrosis diagnostics is a complex work. The research can take a long period of time, but its costs are justified, since early treatment of this disease avoids the worst scenario - surgery to replace the ossified intervertebral disc, during which the pinched nerve roots are released and either full-function implants or simple height compensators that replaceremoved element of the spine. What kind of solution is required for a particular patient is determined by the orthopedist after a comprehensive diagnosis.

Since the disease, as indicated above, is masked, it is first necessary to make sure that the symptoms are not associated with problems in other organs. For example, in case of pain in the heart, you need to undergo a cardiological examination and confirm the absence of heart disease. Comprehensive diagnostics will allow not only to confirm suspicions of osteochondrosis, but also to find out the general condition of the body along the way.

The final diagnosis is made based on the results of X-ray examination of the cervicobrachial spine in frontal and lateral projections. A more informative method is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). It allows you to more accurately determine the localization of dystrophic changes. Thanks to this, the doctor gets the opportunity to prescribe literally point treatment.

Treatment with folk remedies at home

The advantage of osteochondrosis, if this word is used at all in this case, is that the patient can be treated at home, without compulsory hospitalization. The treatment course includes taking special medications and performing exercises from the exercise therapy complex.

Medicines (their types) used for the treatment of osteochondrosis at home are presented in the following table.

Painkillers In most cases, these are tablets, sometimes capsules. These funds are designed to relieve pain in the cervical spine.
Anti-inflammatory Hormonal drugs that stop the inflammatory process resulting from changes in the intervertebral cartilage. Also relieves pain.
Chondroprotectors Medicines containing components for the restoration of cartilage tissue, such as hyaluronic acid. Designed for long-term use.
Muscle relaxants Means for relaxing muscle tension. These drugs are taken only under the supervision of a treating doctor. Limited use due to the large list of contraindications.
Outdoor Ointments, gels and so on. Anti-inflammatory, analgesic and warming are used. Before using these funds, you need to consult a specialist.
Vitamins Preparations with vitamins that improve the conductivity of nerve fibers and the functioning of the peripheral nervous system in general. These are vitamins of group B, as well as A and C. In some cases, vitamin D is prescribed.

It should be understood thatour listing of the types of medicinal products does not provide grounds for self-medication. A specific agent with an indication of the dosage and taking into account the pathogenesis in each individual case can be prescribed only by a certified neurologist. Thoughtless adherence to television advertisements "recommending" the best medicines for osteochondrosis is fraught not with a cure for this disease, but, on the contrary, with an aggravation of the situation. BE CAREFUL!

Injection therapy

In the treatment of osteochondrosis, along with taking pills and applying ointments, injection drugs are used. There is a wide range of drugs for injection. Treatment courses include all types of injections, which include the following:

The doctor gives injections to the neck
  • subcutaneous;
  • intramuscular;
  • intravenous;
  • epidurals.

Injections are more effective in comparison to medications taken orally and all kinds of folk remedies. The blood flow quickly delivers the agent to the sore spot, which explains the rapid healing effect. And, for example, with an epidural injection, medicines are injected directly into the spinal cord and begin to act instantly.

Vitamins and other supportive drugs are usually injected subcutaneously. Anti-inflammatory drugs and chondroprotectors are injected intramuscularly. For example,injections of an anti-inflammatory drug, which are so popular among patients, are injected into muscle tissue. Medications are injected intravenously to accelerate cerebral circulation. This is required in the case of squeezing of the overgrown intervertebral discs of blood vessels, through which the blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Epidural injections are performed with the aim of blocking severe pain sensations when other methods of pain relief are ineffective. With this injection, the needle passes between the vertebral processes and delivers the anesthetic directly to the spinal cord. This procedure is performed only by a trained professional anesthesiologist.

Injections are fully effective only on condition of regular exercise in medical gymnastics. That is, in itself, the administration of drugs is not sufficient for the full treatment of osteochondrosis. Only in combination with exercise therapy is it possible to relieve the symptoms of the disease, and in the future, to restore the affected cartilage tissue.

What to do during exacerbations?

Although osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is chronic and more or less imperceptible for long periods of time, sometimes patients face exacerbations. In each patient, they occur at different intervals, and can occur unpredictably. During these periods, it is important to take timely measures in order to prevent a significant deterioration in the condition.

Exacerbation Provocateurs

Exacerbations in osteochondrosis, as in any other disease, do not occur, as they say, out of the blue. Typically, acute conditions are triggered by the following factors:

  • stress;
  • non-professional massage;
  • weather phenomena;
  • visit to a thermal bath (sauna);
  • excessive physical activity after prolonged physical inactivity.

In women, osteochondrosis is often exacerbated during menstruation. Alcohol abuse is also a powerful provoking factor.

Exacerbation symptoms

The symptomatology of exacerbations of osteochondrosis in each patient manifests itself differently and is determined by the general clinical picture of pathogenesis. For example,cervical and headache in acute conditions is noted by all patients, and loss of sensitivity up to numbness of the face during exacerbations is not felt by everyone, but, nevertheless, it occurs quite often. And, of course, during this period, the symptoms of those diseases under which osteochondrosis is masked are exacerbated. These are heart pains, dizziness, tinnitus, hot flashes and so on. Exacerbations are especially dangerous, during which inflammation of the cervical spine occurs.

Relief measures for exacerbations

In the period of aggravated osteochondrosis, it is necessary, first of all, to consult your doctor. It is not necessary to ignore this rule, since delay in this matter can do a disservice. The neurologist will assess the patient's condition and recommend steps for an effective and, importantly, safe way out of the crisis.

Usually, during acute conditions with osteochondrosis, injections of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed. But gymnastics during this period must be interrupted. On the contrary, the patient must be kept calm. It is unacceptable to knead the neck - this can aggravate the condition. It is advisable to transfer the aggravation in a supine position and fix the head at the same time, placing a roller or at least a rolled sheet under it.

An important place in reducing the frequency of exacerbations is played by their prevention, which boils down to maintaining the correct motor regime in everyday life.A patient with osteochondrosis should monitor posture, keep his head straight, avoid sudden movements. In damp and cold weather, it is necessary to protect the cervical vertebrae from hypothermia. And, of course, you should not forget about medical gymnastics for a minute - you need to do it regularly. This is the key to the course of osteochondrosis without exacerbations.

2 degree of illness

Neuropathologists distinguish 3 degrees of osteochondrosis - 1st, 2nd and 3rd, respectively. In the lion's share of patients, the disease is recorded in the second stage. This is due to the following points. Disease 1 degree is characterized by the appearance of short-term pain in the neck, resembling an electric discharge. At the initial stage, the fibrous ring, which holds the central part of the intervertebral disc, begins to collapse. The guideline for the diagnosis of osteochondrosis of the 1st degree is the dilation of the pupils, which is not associated with other phenomena in the body.

The number of patients with grade 1 osteochondrosis is not very large. The disease at this stage is transient, and is either eliminated (with timely treatment), or quickly passes into the second phase - if the moment is missed. The situation in the number of patients with grade 3 osteochondrosis is similar. It is also small. This is due to the fact that most often doctors manage to start timely treatment and prevent the transition of pathology from the second stage to the third. The disease of this degree is characterized by such symptoms as acute neck pain, which does not subside even after taking painkillers, partial loss of control of the upper limbs, constant dizziness, and often fainting. Osteochondrosis of the 3rd degree is treated, as a rule, by surgery, since drug therapy is often ineffective.

Due to the fact that most patients suffer from osteochondrosis of the 2nd degree, this form of the disease is of the greatest interest from a clinical point of view, and it is in the treatment of the disease at this stage that the greatest experience has been accumulated. According to statistics, the proportion of patients with stage II osteochondrosis among all patients with this pathology is about 75%.

The specificity of this form of the disease is its chronic course with short periods of exacerbation.The second degree differs from the first by the continuing decrease in the space between the vertebrae. That is, the intervertebral disc has not yet collapsed, as in the case of the third stage, but it becomes significantly thinner, which leads to pinching of the nerve roots and causes all the classic symptoms of osteochondrosis.

Since the pathology of the 2nd degree is the most widespread, speaking about the treatment of cervical osteochondrosis in general, they imply the implementation of therapeutic measures in relation to this particular form of the disease. And they, we repeat, include drug therapy and physiotherapy exercises. Correctly carried out treatment allows you to eliminate the disease and prevent its transition to the third stage with an almost inevitable operation to replace the intervertebral discs.

Main symptoms and proper treatment

Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine is a difficult-to-diagnose degenerative lesion of the intervertebral discs. Most often it is encountered by people aged 45-50 years, but in recent years the pathology has "rejuvenated" and now neuropathologists often see patients in their 30s.

The difficulty of detecting osteochondrosis is explained by the "simulating" nature of the course of the disease - when it is disguised as other pathologies.The cause of the disease is the deterioration of the elasticity of the cartilage tissue, which forms a damping pulp between the vertebrae. Cartilage becomes thinner and denser. As a result, the nerve roots are compressed (the so-called radicular infringement), which entails the following symptoms:

  • head and heart pains;
  • increased blood pressure;
  • decreased sensitivity of the facial area (up to numbness);
  • partial paresis of the upper limbs.

All of these symptoms are certainly accompanied by pain in the neck. Often this pain is mild and does not force the patient to take painkillers. Ignoring the slight soreness of the neck, the patient does not sound the alarm about osteochondrosis, but tries to treat other pathologies, for example, angina pectoris or hypertension, which he most likely does not have.

Treatment methods

According to modern approaches, osteochondrosis proceeds in waves. At first, it manifests itself as an exacerbation (acute period). Then the symptomatology weakens and a subacute period sets in. The third stage is remission, which continues until the next exacerbation. The task of treating osteochondrosis is to quickly stop the acute phase, alleviate the patient's condition in the subacute period and ensure long-term remission.

During the acute and subacute phases, the patient takes painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. At these stages, an effective solution is the use of a Shants neck-gauze collar, which gives the head a position in which the neck muscles relax, which eliminates pain. During the period of remission, drug treatment with chondroprotectors that improve the quality of cartilage tissue, and a set of physical exercises exercise therapy are indicated. Exercise is even more important than hyaluronic acid injections because healthy physical activity naturally stimulates the formation of collagen fibers in the cartilage.

Cervicothoracic type of pathology

Speaking strictly formally, cervical and thoracic osteochondrosis are two different forms of the disease. However, they are often combined. This is due to the fact that the cervical and thoracic parts of the spine are closed with each other, which links these two types of pathology of intervertebral discs. That is, with dystrophic changes in the cervical vertebrae, practically the same violations are observed in the thoracic region. Therefore, these two forms of the disease are combined, especially since their symptoms are very similar to each other. The main symptom is pain. With cervical ostechondrosis, pain is localized in the neck, in the case of a cervicothoracic lesion, sternum pain is added to them.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • facial numbness;
  • head and heartache;
  • instability of blood pressure;
  • loud tinnitus.

In case of damage to the thoracic vertebrae, the list is supplemented by impaired coordination of movements, activation of arthrosis of the shoulder joints, numbness of the hands.

Treatment of the cervicothoracic spine

Treatment is prescribed after a thorough diagnosis using X-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Treatment of osteochondrosis is complex - medication and physiotherapy. Drug therapy involves the use of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs.An important part of the treatment is the use of chondroprotectors that directly restore the cartilage tissue in the intervertebral space. Physiotherapy measures include compresses and the use of all kinds of ointments, as well as physiotherapy exercises.

If osteochondrosis is detected in the thoracic spine, professional massage is indicated. Massage effects trigger the natural processes of cartilage tissue regeneration. Massage is more effective in eliminating the disease in the thoracic vertebrae than gymnastics, since the spine in this place is not flexible, and therefore, when performing exercises, it is not always possible to provide a normal range of motion for individual vertebrae. A massage therapist, on the other hand, is able to have an accurate effect on a diseased intervertebral disc. Only you should contact a spine massage specialist who has an appropriate certificate. Also, the massage therapist must be licensed.

Timely measures to eliminate cervicothoracic osteochondrosis will allow avoiding surgery to replace a destroyed intervertebral disc with an endoprosthesis. Early diagnosis of pathology and discipline in outpatient treatment with medicines and folk remedies will save you money. If you have the slightest suspicion of osteochondrosis, consult a neurologist. But better . . .

Be sure to consult your doctor before treating diseases. This will help to take into account individual tolerance, confirm the diagnosis, make sure that the treatment is correct and exclude negative drug interactions. If you use prescriptions without consulting a doctor, then it is entirely at your own risk. All information is presented for informational purposes only and is not a medical aid. All responsibility for the application lies with you.